|Honorary Colonel Pamela Wallin's investiture address|
Senator Pamela Wallin Delivers a Speech on the Occasion of her Investiture as the First Honourary Colonel to Serve the Air Force as a Whole, at the RCAF Officers' Mess in Ottawa on Monday, November 16, 2009
Click here for audio of Senator Wallin's HCol investititure speech.
Pamela Wallin: It's a special honour to serve as an Honourary Colonel to Canada's Air Force because I join a respected and dedicated group of Canadians already in that role. And I promise to do my best to further the bond between Canadians and those who defend them. As Mr. Vaughan mentioned, I've just returned from Afghanistan with Minister MacKay and Minister Tony Clement. We attended November 11th ceremonies there with the family members of seven of our fallen soldiers. We travelled throughout Afghanistan to Kandahar, to four Forward Operating Bases, up to the Dalla Dam, and we did it all in Canadian Chinook piloted by Canadians with air cover from Canadians in the Griffon, and walking out our last morning onto the airfield , it did my heart good. It was a moment of great pride that we are now seeing our troops properly equipped and able to do their work.
It was one of the recommendations of the independent panel that I was part of that concerned our Air Force particularly, and the need for secure medium-lift helicopter capability and high performance, unmanned aerial vehicles. Now, thanks to all of the hard work of the Air Force, this is all a reality. You are saving lives, and you are directly affecting combat operations. And believe me, it's working. Sometimes you feel a little guilty as a Senator or a VIP when you travel into theatre and you use the precious air assets -- and ground -- to move around. But our pilots on the day that we were moving between the FOBs were on triple duty that day, moving other Canadian soldiers and supplies, moving the so-called VIPs, but also spotting IED activity, calling in support, and blowing up some newly planted devices, saving some Canadian lives.
Our mission in Afghanistan has matured, and we are at the very heart of the allied effort. We are considered and acknowledged by our allies, including General McChrystal, who we had a chance to meet with, to be the brains of the operation. And they're all looking to put a little bit more Canada in their efforts. I remain convinced that we are in the right place for the right reasons. We chose to be there. Just as our allies had, we responded to the attacks of 9/11 that killed our citizens, and we joined the American-led operation Enduring Freedom. But because we continue to be threatened both here and there, as others try not only to kill us but to undermine what we believe in and what we stand for, we chose to stay in a very significant way. We sought out that Kandahar assignment for NATO in 2005, sending 2500 of our young men and women into the toughest part of a very tough neighbourhood.
And in Afghanistan there is no doubt of the monumental humanitarian need nor of the security imperative. As we said in our report in the independent panel, our presence in Afghanistan is fully justified, whether considered from the point of view of international law, humanitarian need, or Canadian or global interest in security. If we are not willing to lend our military resources when asked to do so by the United Nations in a mission coordinated by NATO in a country whose democratically elected government wants us and whose citizens desperately need us, then we wonder where and when we would do so. Calls for retreat fail to understand just how successful we are being. What we need is resolve to finish the task.
Success is possible for the Afghans and for us because success is stability and a sense of hope, and we are getting there. That is our exit strategy. As one observer once noted, if you can't offer people a vision of what a government should do, then you won't be able to persuade them about the things it shouldn't do. This is precisely what our civilian and... and military volunteers are doing. It is powerful, and it is the right thing to do, and it is changing minds and hearts.
It all puts me in mind of the words of Theodore Roosevelt in a speech given at Paris in the Sorbonne in 1910, and this always rings true. And... and having just in mere hours come back from Afghanistan and the dust and the dirt that you all know is there, it reminded me of this. "It is not the critics who count, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who was actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, but who spends himself for a worthy cause, who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while bearing(?) greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold or timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." Canada, I believe, has chosen to shed its status as a spectator nation. This mission is a worthy cause, and our troops are anything but timid souls.